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County COVID-19 cases diminish after March vaccine efforts

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As statewide vaccine eligibility expands and the county’s vaccination rate increases, Matt Richardson, Denton County Director of Public Health, said COVID-19 cases are “diminishing,” with rates at their lowest since August 2020.

According to data updated on April 12, there have been 72,779 total COVID-19 cases in Denton County, with 4,419 currently active. Area cases peaked in early January and have now decreased to the lowest rates since August 2020. Since March 18, Denton County Public Health has not recorded a daily case count over 200. 

“New COVID-19 activity is on the decline in Denton County,” Richardson said. 

Richardson also spoke about “an encouraging trend in hospitalizations.” On average, under 5 percent of total inpatient beds were used by COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks, which has not been seen since October 2020. There are currently 16 adult intensive care unit beds open in Denton County.

 Ventilator usage is also down in the county. The rate of usage is currently 18.2 percent, with 320 ventilators available. 

“Our outbreak is diminishing and we want to see that continue,” Richardson said. “Still talk about masks, still talk about physical distancing and, most importantly, embrace vaccines.”

Even before Texas opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility up to everyone 16 and older on March 29, Denton County saw a notable increase of vaccinated residents. The Texas Motor Speedway vaccine clinic doubled its number of administered shots from 100,000 to 200,000 during March. On April 2, the county announced it had administered a total of 250,000 vaccines.

The county has received almost 50,000 vaccine waitlist forms. 

“We are one of the largest vaccine depots in the country, obviously here in the metroplex,” Denton County Judge Andy Eads said. “Thankfully, [COVID-19] is diminishing here locally […] but we are still addressing it and addressing it in an aggressive manner.”

In accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, Denton County does not require citizens to wear face masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local health officials, continue to recommend the use of face masks.

“I am hopeful that people are still wearing masks in public, even if vaccinated […] we want this trend to continue,” Richardson said.

As of April 8, the university has vaccinated 2,227 students, faculty and staff since opening its own clinic on March 24. The vaccine registration portal can be accessed on the Student Health and Wellness Center’s website

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While the university canceled this semester’s spring break, there were concerns in the larger Denton community about the effect of other schools’ breaks on COVID-19 rates. 

“We know there were a lot of our Texas kids out partying on beaches, etc., that didn’t observe social distance, certainly no masks,” Denton County Commissioner Dianne Edmondson said.

The county school districts that were released in the beginning of March “have not contributed to a spike or a surge in Denton County” Richardson said. While county health officials are unsure if the effects of other schools’ later spring breaks can be seen yet, there has not been a spike or surge in cases as the two week period after the end of March draws near.

“We have not seen a spike [due to spring break] as of yet,” Richardson said.

Featured Image: Volunteers direct cars through the Texas Motor Speedway vaccination site on Feb. 2, 2021. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia

Article Originally Published by Ileana Garnand on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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